Mirrors found in Zaragoza, №2

This is a follow-up of the previous posting about Spanish (or rather Zaragozian (?)? Mirrors. This time I decided to look for mirrors in the Museo Diocesano, also known as MUDIZ. The items on display in this, and similar museums, are difficult to call ‘art’, as in many cases they were not ‘art’, and had not been used as ‘art by people who created them. They used them with the sacral purposes ‘for real’, as the youth says today. And in many places this is not even the past, in the very Zaragoza religion is still a pretty important business. To witness that, one doesn’t have to go too far from this very museum, it’s located just across the two largest cathedrals of the city, the Basilica of Mary of the Pillar and La Sea. In fact, many of the artifact shown in the museum, came from these very two churches.

Of course, there is a wide variety of the Marias on the Pillar:


The collection is not huge, and it’s possible to take pictures, but the rooms are too dark to get any decent quality without flash (and the latter is not allowed, of course).

Despite all my interest to such collections, I don’t want to put here in this blog all the pictures I tend to take there. I would like to focus only on the things more or less related to ‘mirrors’. In case of your interest, you may see many more images I made in this museum in the following blog posting – Museo Diocesano in Zaragoza.

Here I would show only a large collection of monstrances presented in one of the specially arranged room.

I keep finding similar collections in various museums, and also see ‘real’ monstrances in the churches from time to time, I managed to write only one short posting about them so far, and long time ago, when we visited the treasure of the Notre Dame church in Paris (see King, (Notre) Dame, Mirror). And I still struggle to fully understand the meaning of this object in Christianity, and the different ways it was used in different times.

So in my case all these pictures of monstrances resemble a bit the underpants collected by the gnomes in the notoriously famous episode of South Park cartoon. Similar to the boys, I have to still see how to make ‘mirror profit’ out of it.

But anyway, at least this time the monstrances had been presented really nicely, they put them inside a glass cube, that was in turm placed in a room with mirror walls.  The lamps had been made in form of long sticks, resembling burning candles, and altogether it was making a smashing view.

Here are a few examples of these beatiful monstrances.

The following example was described as the Minerva Monstrance, but I don’t know what it may mean.

(PS. I was later told that it may mean the brand of a particular silversmith confirming the quality (purity) of the alloy and also working as a time stamp – read more about these things here.)

Below is a close-up of its upper part:

The next one is one of the most complex, multi-lever monstrances I’ve ever seen, a kind of skyscraper of monstrances:

Here is the side view:

There were a few busts of the saints on display in the same room:

I regularly spot various medallions, large brooches and clasps with gems on their gowns depicted in the paintings. Some of their gems are so big that they can work as ‘mirrors’, and many painters do use to show a reflection (even self-portraits sometimes).

But again, I know very little about the actual role and symbolism of these artifacts, which would be useful to know.


There was one potentially interesting panel depicting the birth of St. John the Baptist, by some Master from Villalcázar de Sirga, circa mid 15th century:

As I know from other works, somewhere behind these curtains we could also find a mirror:

But not this time – or may be it was depicted on this tapestry, but later ‘peeled’? (here all my conspiracy theories suddenly reappear!)

There were also a couple of shields on the panel of the Resurrection of Christ (mid 15th century)  that could potentially transform into ‘mirrors’…

… but alas.

Basically, this could be it, I haven’t found any real mirrors here… but there is an interesting tail to this story!


Already when we came back home, I looked at the museum’s website and found that they recently held an interesting exhibition, called Speculum: Maria, espejo de la fe (or Mary, the mirror of the world):

The site itself didn’t present any information, unfortunately, but I started to search the internet in the hope that either some media or simply the visitors would put some stuff online.

Here are a few images from this exhibition that I found

I recognised some of these works (I’ve seen them in the museum), but there were many new ones, too, and I continued my search.

Soon I was rewarded by the following godsend (sic!):

The panel with the Birth of the Virgin is attributed to some Juan de Lensancg (? – I didn’t find much about him), and dates around 1530.

The style of the panel is very close to many of the works by the Antwerp Mannerists – thought its quality points out a likely follower:

But I was most interested in the object that I found at the background of this panel, next to the bed of St. Anna, which looked exactly like many of the ‘mirrors’ before:

By its sheer size and intricate frame it very much resemble the famous (non)mirror of Arnolfini, but in the context of Zaragoza also brings to mind the shining halo of the Mary on the Pillar.

Later I also found the place where this panel actually came from – surprisingly, it wasn’t too far from this very place. In fact, it is stored just across the road, almost literally, since it is in the collection of the Museo Tapices de La Seo, Museum of Tapestries of the La Seo Cathedral.  I knew about this museum but we didn’t managed to get to this cathedral, unfortunately.

I later found an interesting video made by one of the visitors, who just walks through the room and records everything he sees around. Below is a still from this video:

The panel is relatively large which also gives hopes that one day I can get a much better picture of its ‘mirror’, and perhaps even the things it reflects. But after this find my accusations of the mirrorlessness of the Iberian Peninsula turned out to be entirely wrong!

<to further continue>


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